Cool Spaces: Rockets Lolita’s

WORDS Amelia Brown

Joburg restaurant Rockets Lolita’s has been shortlisted for the 2018 Restaurant & Bar Design Awards. 

For owner Sean Barber the recognition validates their goal from the outset to break boundaries. “Throughout this process, the motivation was to be as good, if not better than, international restaurants and show what is possible with a South African team.”

“My inspiration was found in home-grown talent,” Sean continues. “I grew tired of hearing how incredible a restaurant or space was overseas when I knew we had the capabilities, creativity and talent to achieve this and more in our own home town.”

Sean’s brief to Wesley Bremer, co-founder of interior design and project management company Soda Custom, and his team was for an “aspirational restaurant that was unpredictable in its design, making each space infinitely interesting” while appealing to all five senses. Rockets, located in Bryanston, has been shortlisted in the Middle East & Africa Bar, Murals & Graffiti and Biophilic Design categories.

The challenge was the size of the restaurant: 1 780 m2 over four floors. “We had to find a common thread that would create continuity in all the different spaces, but still keep it interesting throughout,” says Sean. Industrial elements such as off-shutter concrete, exposed trunking, roof trusses and air-conducting are juxtaposed with indoor greenery, murals, clusters of glass pendants, leather and high-quality finishes. 

Justin Badenhorst of Nomads Gallery was commissioned for two murals. Custom hand-blown glass pendants with filament globes were chosen to fill the double-volume space. There’s an intricate vertical garden and a 4 m high cherry blossom tree is the feature in the basement garden.

“My favourite area is the Lolita’s island bar,” says Wesley. “It’s a very simple design: the front is old reclaimed railway sleepers in a steel I-beam structure with an aged brass bar top.” For Sean it’s the private dining room where he was involved in the design.

The Restaurant & Bar Design Awards, now in its tenth year, is a globally recognised competition dedicated to the design of food and beverage spaces. The ceremony will be held on 4 October 2018. View the full shortlist at